Prepared by: AS 06
Chapter 12:Groups and Interests
What are the Characteristics of Interest Groups?
How and why do Interest Groups Form?
How Do Interest Groups Influence Policy
Groups and Interests: The Dilemma of Reform
Chapter Summary: Interest groups play a major role in making the United States a
democracy. They can be based in around professions (AMA), industries (PHarma), labor
groups (AFL-CIO), people with a common property right to protect, identity groups
(AARP) or issues (NRDC). Though it is common for people to rail against interest
groups generally, they serve an important function in aggregating people to voice their
opinions, promote policy, and protect their rights.. This is done through lobbying in
Congress and in the Courts (as in as Roe v. Wade and Brown v. the Board of Ed.) Interest
groups also prevent the government from becoming a dictatorship or autocratic, as
described in Federalist 10 (Madison): the way to fight factions is with factions to provide
a competitive and democratic atmosphere.
Interest groups use lobbying, litigation and ‘going public’ to get their interests
met in the government. Lobbying is often depicted as wining and dining (and some of it
probably is), or dangling offers of campaign contributions, but more common are efforts
to educate legislators about a situation in a way that promotes the groups’ agenda.
A main problem with groups is the collective action problem which involves free
riding and the use of selective benefits to overcome the problem of free riding. It is
notable that the majority of citizens active in interest groups are from the upper to middle
class and therefore influence from other sectors of the population are under-represented.
Critical Vocab/Concepts:
Federalist 10 (fight
factions with factions) *
Informational Benefits
Interest Group
Material Benefits
Political Action
Committee (PAC)
Prisoner’s Dilemma*
Purposive Benefits
Solidary Benefits
Big picture questions from this material:
 This chapter highlights and discusses lobbying which is directly connected with
the more recent Jack Abramhoff Scandal which brings to light the corruption
brought on by lobbying.
 If and when Congress will attempt to pass a lobbying reform bill.
Chapter Notes:
Interest groups tend to concern themselves with the policies of gov’t; parties tend to concern
themselves with the personnel of gov’t.
Interest groups enhance Democracy by educating members about issues that affect them, lobbying
members of Congress and the executive branch, engaging in litigation, representing their members
interests in the political arena and monitoring gov’t programs to make certain members aren’t
adversely affected. FR?
A constitution that guarantees freedom is based on Pluralism- the theory that all interests are and
should be free to compete for influence in the gov’t. The outcome of this competition is compromise
and moderation. The theory of Federalist 10- by James Madison- the only way to fight factions is with
more factions. MC li
Groups appeal to members by promoting political goals or policies that they favor but also by
providing them with direct economic/social benefits as well as through social interaction and good
Every group must build a financial structure capable of sustaining an organization, and funding
activities and must have leadership and decision making structure.
Groups tend to have an upper class bias because members are drawn from middle/upper middle class
b/c they have time, money and an education that provides concerns and skills to belong to groups ap
PRISIONER’S DILEMMA- provides the insight that rational behavior does not always lead to
rational collective results (p. 517- chart that illustrates the dilemma). MC li ap
Mancur Olsen and free riding/selective benefits- small groups manage the problem of free riding better
because the smaller group allows for everyone to know what everyone else is doing- these groups are
considered privileged, whereas free riding is more frequent in large groups.
Types of selective benefits: Informational: special newsletters, periodicals, etc, that are provided to
members to entice others to join in. Material: special goods or services or money provided to members
to entice others to join. Solidary: selective benefits that emphasize friendship, networking and
consciousness-raising. Purposive: selective benefits that emphasize the purpose and accomplishments
of the group.
Lobbying- a lobbyist as defined in the 1946 Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act is a person who shall
engage himself for pay or any consideration for the purpose of attempting to influence the
passage/defeat of any legislation of the Congress of the US. (how interest groups influence policy chart
on page 523)
1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act states that all organizations employing lobbyists are required to register
with Congress and disclose whom they represent, whom they lobby, what they are lobbying for and
how much they are paid.
3 ways groups use the courts- bring the suit directly on behalf of the group itself to court, finance suits
brought to court by individuals, or file and amicus curiae brief to an existing case- examples of this
include- Griswold v. CT, Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of ED re ex
Groups donate to election campaigns through political action committees – limits have been placed by
the Federal Election Campaign Act which limits campaign contributions and requires that each
candidate/committee itemize the full name, address, occupation, and principal business of each person
who contributes more than $100. After Watergate more reforms were enacted- and individual can
donate no more than $2,000 to any candidate for federal office in any primary /general election and
PAC’s cant give more than $5,000 as long as it contributes to at least 5 different candidates per year.
McCain-Feingold Bill of 1996 eliminated unrestricted “soft money” donations to national political
Initiative- the process that allows citizens to propose new laws and submit them for approval by the
state’s voters in a referendum.